Riau floods worsen, engulf more houses

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Rizal Harahap, The Jakarta Post, Pekanbaru | Archipelago | Tue, February 16 2016, 3:15 PM

Flooding in Riau province worsened on Monday, extending to downstream areas as the overflowing Indragiri and Kampar rivers engulfed homes in Indragiri Hulu and Pelalawan regencies.

Floods in three other regencies — Kampar, Kuantan Singingi and Rokan Hulu — which were caused by the two rivers as well as the overflowing Batang Rubuh and Rokan rivers over the weekend, have not yet receded.

According to reports received by the Riau Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), floods in Indragiri Hulu inundated 22 villages in five districts with between 20 centimeters to 1 meter of water, affecting 231 homes, most of them in Sungai Lala district.

Meanwhile, Abdul Kadir, a resident of Semelinang Tebing village, Peranap district, Indragiri Hulu, remains missing after reportedly being swept away by floodwater.

According to Riau Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Edwar Sanger, the 65-year-old man was believed to have slipped and fallen as he was defecating in the river on Saturday at around 11:30 p.m. local time. When he failed to return home by midnight, his wife Marina, 65, and son, Arga, 21, went to the river, which is located close to their home.

Kadir was nowhere to be found, though his torch was still on the riverbank. Marina and Arga reported the incident to village officials, who tried to search for Kadir using boats, but were hampered by swift currents and rising water levels.

“Indragiri Hulu BPBD, assisted by police and Indonesian Military [TNI] personnel, searched for the victim using a rubber dinghy. The search will be conducted indefinitely,” Edwar said on Monday.

In Pelalawan, the overflowing Kampar River engulfed residences in Langgam and Pangkalan Kerinci districts from Sunday night. A thoroughfare belonging to PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper, which is a major route connecting the two districts, was forced to close temporarily as a 3.5-kilometer stretch of the road was flooded.

Swift currents and rising water levels have endangered motorists, as floodwater toppled a number of utility poles owned by state electricity company PLN.

Pelalawan BPBD and Fire Department head Hadi Penandio said the local administration had imposed a flood alert status in anticipation of the rising rivers.

“Areas around the Kampar River will be monitored continuously. The water level now is around one to one-and-a-half meters above the usual level,” said Hadi.

Based on temporary data, the swollen river has engulfed 45 homes in Langgam and Rantau Baru subdistricts. Three schools and a place of worship were also inundated. “As many as 54 families, or 187 people, have sought refuge in safer places, including with their relatives,” said Hadi.

“For the time being, residents have to use boats or motorboats as their means of transportation. The government has set up two flood command posts and a public kitchen to meet the needs of evacuees,” he added.